Tokyo, Japan: Fourth seed Karolina Pliskova defeated US Open champion Naomi Osaka 6-4, 6-4 in just 63 minutes to lift the Pan Pacific Open title. The the loss ended Osaka’s 10 match winning streak.
Playing in her first tournament since upsetting Serena Williams to win the US Open on September 8, third-seeded Osaka hadn’t dropped a set previous to Sunday’s final but was frustrated from the outset by the big-serving Czech player.
Pliskova came into the decider having won her last four dating to the Brisbane International in January 2017, and kept that streak alive while putting an end to Osaka’s 10-match winning streak.
“I’m just happy it didn’t go to three sets,” said the Czech. “Naomi was maybe a little bit tired, you could see that. But the future is bright for her and congrats to her for an incredible few weeks.”
“My serve is my biggest weapon and it was key today,” added Pliskova after scooping an 11th career title.
“Naomi was maybe a little bit tired, you could see that. But the future is bright for her and congrats to her for an incredible few weeks.”
The players had split their previous two meetings, but Osaka started the final as favourite after her historic New York triumph.
And the third seed began in menacing fashion, thumping an ace down the middle on the first point and holding her first two service games to love.
But Pliskova slowly turned the screw and broke for 3-2 with a fizzing backhand her opponent swished well wide.
The Czech was soon a set to the good after unleashing another brutal drive, Osaka caught flat-footed and dumping it into the net.
Runner-up in Tokyo two years ago, Osaka climbed to seventh in the world rankings after becoming Japan’s first grand slam singles champion but she looked lost for ideas against Pliskova.
The 20-year-old buried her head in a towel during the changeover and things barely improved in the second set, Osaka whacking her racquet against her sneakers in anger at her wastefulness.
As the strain began to show, a dejected Osaka called for coach Sascha Bajin and groaned: “I feel so stressed out!”
Sensing blood, Pliskova broke for 5-4 after a poor Osaka drop shot gifted her an easy put-away and moments later she delivered the coup de grace with a sixth ace that Osaka barely wafted her racquet at.
For Pliskova, it was a first tournament victory since Stuttgart in April — and the first since wedding long-time partner Michal Hrdlicka in the summer.
“The first one this year was before the wedding,” smiled the Czech. “I’m just happy that I also have a title as a married woman.”